UPDATE: At Thursday’s meeting, despite a room full of parents and allies who wish to see the short-hair-policy removed, the CCSL school board refused to discuss the issue of the boy’s short hair policy. Even more disturbingly, a board member was overheard dehumanizing the Native American attendees and referring to them as “feathers.” Parents questioned, if this was the type of racism that they encountered at a board meeting, what type of racist treatment were the schools Brown and Black students enduring on a daily basis.

On April 26, 2023, the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) submitted a letter to the Classical Charter Schools of Leland (CCSL), a network of charter schools in North Carolina, requesting the removal of a network-wide policy that prohibits male students from wearing long hair. Many Native American people wear long hair, regardless of gender, for cultural and religious reasons. The letter requests that the network’s Board of Trustees place the issue on the agenda for its Thursday, April 27, meeting.

The letter explains that: “Since time immemorial, many Tribes and Indigenous communities have placed significant cultural and religious importance on hair and to many [it] is an important aspect of Indigenous identity. This predates European contact and the founding of the United States, when settlers began imposing Western hairstyles on tribal communities.”

While CCSL has committed to not forcing male students to cut their hair for the remainder of the current school year, NARF wants the school to permanently remove the discriminatory and outdated assimilationist policy before the upcoming school year. “Native boys have legally protected religious rights to wear their hair long. School officials forcing Native boys to cut their hair to match non-Native cultural beliefs is unlawful discrimination that violates religious freedoms,” said NARF Staff Attorney Mark Carter.

NARF is a Native-led nonprofit legal organization that educates and advocates for the rights of the Indigenous peoples. NARF promotes Native American human rights, including the freedom to practice religious and cultural beliefs related to hair and hair style.

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